Emily Belknap is the winner of the 2013 Chazen Prize to an Outstanding MFA Student. Her work explores the relationship between landscapes on the edge of town and in the backyard. From green lawns maintained with sprinklers to monoculture cornfields, she draws and constructs landscapes that have been simplified and abstracted to suit human purposes. These landscapes are fragile in their simplified state and the boundaries constructed within and around them are precariously placed. Fences that delineate property lines, roadways and parking lots that isolate habitats, and monoculture crops that restrict ecosystems are the subjects of her current work. With a background in painting, Belknap currently creates sculptures and wall installations, and many of her pieces are miniature in scale and minimal in aesthetic.
Instituted in 2012, to be given annually for five years, the Chazen Prize recognized the creative excellence of a third-year MFA student at the UW–Madison Department of Art. The award includes a museum exhibition and a monetary contribution intended to help the student further his or her artistic career. The Chazen Prize is coordinated in collaboration with the art department and the selection is made by an outside curator.
This year’s curator is Bartholomew Ryan, assistant curator in the visual arts department at the Walker Art Center. He says he selected Belknap “because of the strong impression [her artworks made on him] and also the sense that they are connected to a wider philosophy of practice that the artist is developing both materially and conceptually.”